Israel tells Assad to ‘get rid of the Iranians’ or risk more strikes in Syria

Home / Israel tells Assad to ‘get rid of the Iranians’ or risk more strikes in Syria

Israel warned the Syrian regime on Friday to “get rid of the Iranians” or else risk further large scale Israeli airstrikes against Iran’s forces in Syrian territory. 

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A day after Israel launched “Operation House of Cards” – sending warplanes to hit 70 targets across Syria in response to what it said was an Iranian rocket attack on the Golan Heights – Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a message to Damascus. 

“They are not helping you, they only cause damage, and their presence will only cause problems and damages,” Mr Lieberman said during a tour of the Golan. “Get rid of the Iranians and maybe it will be possible to have a different kind of life.”

Iran meanwhile denied that its forces were behind the rocket attack early on Thursday morning and said Israel had launched the airstrikes into Syria based on “fabricated and baseless excuses”.

The spike in violence between Iran and Israel across the Golan came as Tehran prepares to mount a complicated diplomatic offensive to try to salvage the Iran nuclear deal in the wake of Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. 

Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, will leave today (SAT) on a worldwide trip to Beijing, Moscow and Brussels to meet with the remaining members of the nuclear agreement and urge them not to give in to US pressure to halt trade with Iran.  

Israel said it hit most of Iran's bases in SyriaCredit:
REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki 

“The foreign minister has been tasked with the duty of taking the necessary measures to obtain guarantees from the remaining parties of the JCPOA as well as Iran’s other economic partners,” Iran’s government said in a statement. 

The statement warned that even as Mr Zarif was on his diplomatic mission Iran was making preparations so that it could resume “industrial scale” uranium enrichment. 

Such a move be a breach of the nuclear agreement and likely set Iran back on a potential course towards major conflict with Israel and the US, which have both said they will not allow Iran to develop the capacity for a nuclear weapon. 

Iran is seeking assurances that European, Russian and Chinese companies will continue to do business with Iran, even in the face of threats from the US that companies which do so may face American sanctions. 

An early test is likely to come this week when Airbus, a European aircraft maker, is expected to announce whether it will continue with a £15 billion deal to supply Iran with 100 commercial planes.

The deal is of major importance to Iran and its national carrier, IranAir, which has been struggling for years with a fleet of aging planes. If the Airbus deal falls through it is likely to strengthen the hand of Iranian hardliners calling an end to the nuclear agreement. 

Meanwhile, an aide to Vladimir Putin said that Russia was not planning to move supply the Syrian regime with sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. Vladimir Kozhin, a Kremlin official, said the Syrian regime had “everything they needed”. 

The announcement also seemed to be another sign of tensions between Iran and Russia, who are fighting on the same side on behalf of the Syrian regime. By refusing to supply the S-300 system to Damascus, Russia is leaving Iranian troops exposed to future Israeli strikes. 

Asharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Arab newspaper, published an unconfirmed account tensions with Iran’s government over the attack in the Golan. It claimed that Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, accused the Revolutionary Guard of launching the rocket attack as a way of sabotaging his efforts to save the nuclear agreement. 

Israel’s military appeared confident that its wave strikes had deterred Iran from another attack in the near future. Israeli civilians on the Golan Heights were told they could close their bomb shelters, which had been open since Tuesday. “There is intelligence information behind that decision,” a military official said.    

Israeli officials said they had significantly set back Iran’s military capabilities in Syria but would remain vigilant as Iran flew in new weapons and equipment. 

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said Iran had obtained a letter sent by Mr Trump to Arab allies demanding that they do more for the US in return for America’s military presence in the Middle East. "The US wants to own humiliated slaves," the ayatollah said. 

Mr Trump has publicly complained about US allies in Europe and the Middle East taking advantage of American security guarantees. "They have to step up tremendously — not a little bit, but tremendously — their financial effort,” Mr Trump said of the Gulf states. 

US officials confirmed to the New York Times that Mr Trump had sent a letter to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, but said the Iranian leader had mischaracterised its content to make it sound more divisive than it was. 

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